Guyanese inmates paint unsatisfactory picture of physical abuse behind prison walls

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The final report of the Guyana Prison Service Inmates Survey was launched on Monday with recommendations urging, among other things, an improvement in inmates’ safety and a review of the police’s performance and behaviour.

The recommendations stemmed directly from complaints by inmates to the research team from Argentine University’s where they claimed to have been physically abused while in the care of law enforcement officials.

The report said it was very worrisome that almost four out of ten inmates claimed that they had been hit in an effort to compel them to testify or to change their statement while at the police station.

The results from interviews conducted among scores of inmates show that the police do not always fully respect the civil and human rights of detainees.

Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan launched the report with IDB resident representative Sophie Makonen. Both parties also expressed alarm over such a finding and supported the recommendation for corrective action.

The report said that on the one hand, a warrant in writing was only shown to one out of ten inmates when they were arrested.

In a similar manner, only 17.4% of detainees by the police were informed that they were entitled to a lawyer.

Such behaviour, the report said, not only violates the accepted good practices in the treatment of detainees but it also violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Meanwhile, it pointed out that while safety is a basic necessity for prisoners and staff alike, prisoners serving sentences are not afforded this right.

Results from the survey reveal a picture that is not satisfactory with eight out of ten prisoners reported seeing other inmates being beaten and six out of 10 prisoners were victims of theft of their personal belongings in prisons.

The report also recommended increases in institutional capacities in the criminal justice system, diminishing the level and alleviating the effects of overcrowding, improving the level and quality of the hygiene items provision, and the monitoring of specific subpopulations after they are released.

Specific to the monitoring of subpopulations after they are released, the report said it is proven that when people who are imprisoned for drugs are released, they tend to go back to drugs sell and consumption.

Some of the findings are that 1 out of 4 inmates reported being beaten as children, 4 out of 10 inmates’ parents drank alcohol, 1 out of 5 inmates said they were members of gangs in the communities where they grew up and 4 out of 6 inmates had a family member who was sent to prison before.

The survey was funded by the Inter-American Development Bank to the value of US$2.3 million through the Citizen Security Strengthening Programme (CSSP).

The appraisal is part of the third component of the CSSP’s five-year programme.

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